Avon to shrink its carbon ‘footprint’ | VailDaily.com

Avon to shrink its carbon ‘footprint’

Matt Terrell
Vail CO, Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyFitness enthusiasts work out on the treadmills Thursday at the Avon Recreation Center. The center will be one of the first facilities targeted by the Avon Town Council for reducing energy.

AVON, Colorado ” Before hopping on an Avon bus, Brent Hopkins wondered aloud if his daily ride could be powered by vegetable oil.

“It’s just a dumb thought,” he said. “The town would smell like fries, but we’d have cleaner air.”

That idea may not be practical, but Hopkins likes the thought of greener town. He was glad to hear that Avon is examining its carbon footprint in hopes of becoming a better steward of the environment.

The town hired the consulting firm Schmueser Gordon Meyer to pick apart the town’s energy use, track its carbon emissions and recommend ways of reducing pollution.

Avon doesn’t appear to be a monster polluter, but its carbon footprint could certainly be smaller.

When you look at the ratio of money spent on energy compared to total town spending, Avon is about average, said Dan Richardson, a consultant with Schmueser Gordon Meyer. And overall, Avon has a smaller carbon footprint than towns like Vail, Glenwood Springs and Aspen, but Avon is also a different kind of town, Richardson said.

When you start looking at individual buildings, like the Avon Recreation Center, you see that the town can definitely reduce its carbon emissions.

Now that the town knows how much it’s using, it wants to shrink down its emissions aggressively and create a plan to make the town more environmentally friendly.

The firm analyzed everything from light bulbs to bus pollution.

The biggest energy spenders were town buildings, which put out 63 percent of the town’s CO2. The Avon Recreation Center used 50 percent more energy than your average recreation center, Richardson said. Avon’s recreation center uses about double of what the recreation center in Glenwood Springs uses, he said.

Glenwood’s recreation center is also one of the city’s biggest consumers of energy.

Avon’s municipal building uses about 33 percent more energy than normal, Richardson said.

The main point though was to find what was normal for Avon. The town used 2,481,478 kilowatt hours of electricity last year, and whether that’s high or low, they want to reduce it. Same with the 159,898 therms of natural gas and 26,107,696 gallons of water.

And the magic number? The town emitted 3,729 tons of CO2 in the air, Richardson said.

The firm has a long list of suggestions to cut emissions and make Avon a more sustainable, environmentally friendly community. Many are based in creating new town policies, and many revolve around building stuff.

The town could choose for example to develop policies requiring environmental impact to be a criteria when evaluating building projects. It could mean requiring town employee to learn about fuel efficient driving.

Maybe the town should require new buildings to install high efficiency ENERGY STAR products for any new equipment that uses electricity or natural gas. Perhaps strategically planting shrubs and trees to cool off buildings in the summer would make a difference. More money could be invested in hybrid cars. It could be all of these things, and a few dozen more recommended by the firm.

A big step Richardson hopes to see is the town dedicate funding every year to energy efficiency improvements, which would show that Avon wants to make sustainability a priority.

“You can really accomplish things if you put money into it,” Richardson said.

It also would be good to see the town produce about 5 percent of its own energy, he said. While it’s nice that the town is interested in buying wind energy from Holy Cross, why not, for instance, put solar panels on some buildings?

And, of course, there are the long list of small things Avon could do like buy high efficiency light bulbs, add insulation, upgrade air conditioning and heating systems and improve water boilers.

No matter what kind of plan the town creates, Avon has to commit for the long haul, Richardson said.

“It can’t just be something they attack on a project by project basis,” Richardson said. “They have to change their modus operandi, the way they do business.”

Mayor Ron Wolfe suggested starting Avon’s environmental overhaul with a big example ” the Avon Recreation Center. It has the largest carbon footprint in town, and it’s a highly used, popular building that many people visit.

Avon will likely soon invest in what they call an “investment-grade” energy audit, which will tell them more specifically than Richardson’s report where energy is being lost in the building, where energy can be saved and what the best ways are of reducing its carbon footprint.

As for all the other suggestions, town staff still has a lot of work to do to figure out what will work and what won’t.

This lead-by-example approach can really work wonders for a town, Richardson said.

More towns are analyzing their carbon footprints than ever, and that can help promote a green culture in its citizens, Richardson said.

He hopes to see Avon hold community meetings to get a better understanding of how residents want to tackle climate change.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

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